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FILM REVIEW: 'The Eight Mountains'


“The Eight Mountains” is at the Fountain Theater, 2469 Calle de Guadalupe in Mesilla, through Thursday, June 29. Visit mesillavalleyfilm.org for information and tickets.

 A story of life-long friendship between without sex or frat-boy shenanigans is presented as a possible antidote to the usual rugged man film stereotypes. Young Pietro (Lupo Barbieri), a city boy from Turin, comes to the mountains with his mother and meets “the only child left in the village” Bruno (Cristiano Sassella) and at age 11 these two forge a life-long bond based on time spent doing mindful, thoughtful, and playful things.

This film, directed by Belgian filmmakers Charlotte Vandermeersch (first time) and Felix von Groeningen (who gave us “Beautiful Boys”), moves slowly through 40 years, emphasizing the change within each character as well as their constant regard (dare we say “love”?) for each other. The adult actors, Lucas Martinelli (Pietro) and Alessandro Borghi (Bruno) show in their expressions and easy physicality that there is a depth to their relationship, where they can seek refuge in the mountains and from each other.

I usually ignore movie soundtracks, but Swedish composer Daniel Morgen uses songs and sounds to more deeply express the emotions that the men are uneasy with. The remoteness of the mountains of the Italian Alps and later the Himalayas echo the remoteness that dwells inside the two men (no surprise for this man).

 Pietro says of his father that “chemistry and physics are the myths” that formed him. In talking with a group of Pietro’s city friends Bruno says “We don’t call this nature—that’s too abstract. We call it tree, rock, sky, mountain, real things.” The friends re-build a remote cabin that becomes “our house” in the summertime. It is the focus of the cementing of their bond. They work to complete it and spend time alone and together in it.

Having recently seen the Academy Award nominated buddy movie “Close” I could not help but see the difference when sexual tension begins to impact relationships. Did I want “The Eight Mountains” to sink into the slough of “Brokeback Mountain?” Viscerally, yes, but emotionally and cinematically, no. The filmmakers and screenplay writers, taking from Paolo Cognetti’s (first time) novel and letting cinematographer Ruben Impens capture the spaciousness and remoteness of mountains, adding Morgen’s score to move the plot along have given us a subtle, complex, and majestic look and the possibility of and experience voiced by Yeats: “Think where man’s glory most begins and ends/And say my glory was that I had such friends.”